A bitter custody battle over a 3-year-old girl ended in tragedy on Sunday night. Police say Zoey Pereira's father, Martin Pereira, was waging a bitter custody battle with the girl's mother, Cherone Coleman.
On Sunday, Pereira placed his daughter in her car seat in the back of his 2008 Audi A6 and drove to an intersection in the Springfield Gardens neighborhood of Queens, NY. The rear doors were chained shut and gasoline was splashed inside the car. Pereira ignited the gasoline and fled the car. A propane tank in the trunk and 2 gas containers fed the flames.
Little Zoey was burned alive in the back seat of the car. The 39-year-old construction worker unwittingly set himself on fire as he fled on foot. He jumped into a nearby pond to put out the flames on his clothes. By the time first responders arrived, Pereira had stripped down to his underwear.
Pereira initially told firefighters that his car was involved in a hit-and-run accident and burst into flames with the child inside.
"I have my kid in the car," he reportedly said. But when firefighters rushed to the burning sedan, they realized the car was not involved in an accident. The rear doors had been chained shut from the inside to prevent the child from escaping.
Zoey was removed from the burning car and rushed to a hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.
A grieving Coleman told the NY Daily News that Pereira had threatened to hurt Zoey in the past.
"You'll never see your daughter again," she said he told her. Coleman and Pereira were scheduled to appear in court on Monday to discuss child support.
They dated for five years before breaking up this year, WCBS reported.
Pereira is being held without bond. Charges are pending.